LLM GUIDE - Master of Laws (LL.M.) Programs Worldwide

LL.M. Programs for Non-Law Graduates

A look at a handful of programs open to students without a first law degree

By L. Menz, Aug 21, 2007

Students at UCIHL in Geneva

There are many reasons why non-law graduates would want to pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M). Perhaps he or she wants a new job that requires some legal knowledge, or perhaps it’s a way to specialize or change professional direction. This article provides a few examples of LL.M. programs that are open to students who do not have a first law degree.

The demand for interdisciplinary knowledge continues to get stronger on the job market, particularly in companies and organizations working on a European or international level. The growing number of international agreements, especially within the European Union, makes having some legal knowledge a real asset when applying for jobs. Therefore, many of the LL.M. programs that accept non-law graduates concentrate on international or European law.

The European Master in Law and Economics (EMLE) addresses precisely this connection between law and economics on an international level. Its purpose is to give a solid understanding of the economic effects of laws to prepare students for a career in public organizations and multinational law firms. Aside from focusing on the “Law and Economics” perspective, the program also gives students the chance to spend each of the course’s three terms at a different European university campus.

The program accepts graduates in both law and economics, as well as applicants with a degree in business administration or social science, as long as their previous studies included a substantial number of courses in law and/or economics. In other words, a certain legal background is necessary to apply. Similarly, the Bucerius/WHU Master of Law and Business in Hamburg, Germany also accepts students with a first degree in economics, but "some prior knowledge" of legal issues is needed. 

Another program in a totally different field is the Master in Advanced Studies (MAS) in International Humanitarian Law offered jointly by the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International Studies. It is the only Master program that focuses on the legal dimensions of armed conflicts and emergency situations. The University Center for International Humanitarian Law (UCIHL) is closely connected to the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organizations, and it prepares students for work in NGOs, international organizations, embassies, and law firms, as well as university research.

Courses are held in two parallel classes taught in English and French, which allows students from all over the world to participate, especially students from developing countries. While the student body is made up of mostly law graduates, other students who have “another academic qualification deemed to be equivalent by the Admission Committee” can also be admitted. Students with international relations or political science degrees, for example, could get in if they took a number of international law courses during their previous studies.

Also in the field of international law, the University of Nottingham in Britain offers LL.M. programs in nine different specializations ranging from Criminal Justice to International Commercial Law. Although they mostly accept law graduates, they also consider candidates with a degree in a related discipline, such as international relations. La Trobe University in Australia has also announced two new postgraduate law programs – a Master of Commercial Law and a Master of Global Business Law – especially for graduates of non-law disciplines.

Some distance learning courses, including the University of Edinburgh’s LL.M. in Innovation, Technology and the Law and the University of London External Program, also consider non-law graduates.

But even if these programs accept students from other backgrounds, a certain legal knowledge is expected. Particularly for international law programs, some knowledge of international law is necessary to be able to follow the generally fast pace of teaching. For this reason, some schools, such as the London School of Economics and University College London, will consider qualified non-law graduates, but prefer/require that applicants pass the Commmon Profession Examination (CPE) or an overseas equivalent.

Having myself been an LL.M. student without a law degree (in the Master of Law in International Humanitarian Law described above), I sometimes felt a bit behind when certain legal concepts were discussed, but this was never a big handicap, and was counterbalanced by the understanding of the international system that I acquired during my undergraduate studies.

Perhaps an even more important question concerns the job prospects for non-law graduates enrolled in these programs. First of all, if you want to become a lawyer, these programs are probably not the best place to start. They usually only concentrate on specific legal topics, which are typically international in scope. Therefore, it would be wiser to pursue a J.D./LL.B., a CPE/GDL, or another relevant course that actually prepares students to become lawyers.

But if you’re not looking to become a lawyer, these programs can give you a specialized knowledge of international and European law that will prepare you well for work in an international organization, international law firm, multinational company, or even in the government sector. And aside from career prospects, you will never forget the people from around the world – lawyers and otherwise – who you will meet during your LL.M. year.

Related Programs


  • Dharanesh T L , Sat Aug 16, 2014 08:40 AM


    am completed MBA in Marketing and HR and Working in non banking finance company i would like to get distance courses on banking Law, Insurance Law, Corporate Law , Law in Export and Import and please suggest me root to get the courses through distance with best university

    Reply me - [email protected]

  • cactus261, Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:50 AM

    Hi all,
    Iam studing english language as my first degree, can i stiil do my master in internation economics and law ,pls send me reply pro [email protected]

  • Anshuman, Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:45 AM


    I am a now law graduate and want to Pursure LLM in India. Am I eligible to pursure the LLM courses without having an LLB Degree. If yes, please can you suggest some good colleges in Delhi/NCR

    Anshuman S

  • neha, Thu Mar 14, 2013 08:48 AM

    I have an MBA in hr and marketing and would like to get LLM in any college. tell me is im elligeble for llm

  • Rana, Tue Mar 12, 2013 05:14 PM


    I am currently in my final year doing my ungergraduate degree in Business Management. I am looking into doing my masters degree in International law, however not sure of what career options I could pursue onwards. Any advice on this would be highly appreciated.

    Many thanks,

  • Arthur Mboue, Wed Aug 22, 2012 04:43 PM

    LLM rarely accept a non 1st law degree holder. But, a few will select one student every decades or year who can show that he did take previous law course with high grade, for instance during my previous Post master certificate and independent studies, I did receive A and appreciation from the judge for my rebuttal motion and .... Although I was a financier super star student, I had show that I had huge financial regulatory and legislative process knowledge. In addition, I have show knowledge in external financial reporting when coupled with policies, securities and regulatory law. To reach that level, it take a lot of years or 2 decades. The school wants to know that you (graduate level, PhD,...) will succeed as LLM. I can teach a lot of these courses with my own working papers and teaching materials;. That said, be sure you have what it takes for the LLM

    Arthur Mboue

  • Abdul Mohamed, Fri Jul 13, 2012 02:01 AM

    I have an MBA in finance and would like to get LLM in international law. Any U.S base university will accept my degree.

  • âdeyemi, Mon Jul 02, 2012 04:23 PM

    am studing german language as my first degree can i stiil do my master in internation law pls send me reply pro [email protected]

  • taskusa99, Thu May 03, 2012 01:06 AM

    Interesting that so many "educated" people can't be bothered to research their questions: specifically asking for the author/website to give them admission information, or otherwise serve as a guidance counselor. So it is not just the US that lacks critical thinkers and well, people who just know how to DO things.

  • Nina, Mon Apr 23, 2012 03:29 PM

    I'm a non-law UK undergrad in Economics and I find these programmes very interesting. However, given my aim of eventually wanting to practice law, could someone tell more about the possibility of getting a JD (perhaps from a US institution) after doing an European LLM for non-law?

    Many thanks in advance!

  • ITNerd, Thu Apr 12, 2012 08:02 PM

    IT professionals can apply for LLM IT Law programmes at Strathclyde and KUL.

  • angellina, Wed Mar 14, 2012 02:22 PM

    i am currently studying International Business Management as my bachelor degree and i would want to continue my studies in law. could you please give me the list of universities to offer a LLM or a JD for non law graduate? and the information of the admission required.

  • Redford, Sat Feb 25, 2012 04:06 PM

    Kaplan Law School also offer an LLM awarded by Nottingham University and you can study an LLM Business & Commercial Law through their sister company Holborn College which is awarded by LJMU.


  • NDUBUISI ANTHONY, Sat Dec 31, 2011 01:22 PM

    As a holder of Bsc in political Science, can i have my Msc programme in international law and Diplomacy in one of the institutions stated above? An e-mail will be appreciated from you. Thanks!

  • akerele oluwatomisin, Thu Sep 15, 2011 05:09 PM

    Good day. My name is akerele oluwatomisin. I am from Nigeria. I am a a bachelor's degree graduate of German language. I am interested in the master of international law and economics. Can you please enlighten me more on the course. Thank you for your anticipated reply.

  • srikanth, Thu Jun 09, 2011 07:57 AM

    Hi, I have done MBA in finance and PG Diploma in HRM and working in MNC company as HR, and i would like to more about Labour law\'s, if i join LLM is that helpful for me or not.

  • prasaddg, Wed Apr 20, 2011 09:48 PM

    is any such school in USA offering LLM degree to seekers wh don;t have their first law degree?also, any distance learning program for such LLM? thanks..

  • marktjeffrey, Thu Feb 17, 2011 02:32 PM

    I would add the British College of Law to this list. I'm doing their LL.M in International Practice by distance learning from Switzerland, and it is a very good experience.


  • rick, Mon Jan 17, 2011 11:53 PM

    Are there any LLM degree (online or distance) that can gain the same recognition that LLB graduates generally receive?

  • john123456, Mon Jan 03, 2011 01:51 PM

    I would also like some information on starting the next session. At the moment I currently go to sacred heart university online but I looking for a masters degree program for non law graduates.

  • OGO Mbe Chuks, Sun Dec 05, 2010 09:06 PM

    I already have a Masters In International Law and Diplomacy(MILD),from University of Lagos,Nigeria.
    How may I have information on admission to start next session?

  • Colvin. N .K, Thu Nov 25, 2010 02:01 AM

    I am a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police in Sri Lanka. I retired after completing almost thirty nine years of service in the Police Force and hold an unblemished record of service. During my service therein, in addition to my field experience, I have been in charge of the following important desks:-
    • The Bureau for the protection of women and children,
    • Diplomatic Security,
    • The Department of Terrorist Investigation,
    • Planning and research,

    I also possess the following academic qualifications.
    • A Masters in human Rights obtained in the year from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka,
    • A Post Graduate Diploma in Development Studies and Public Policy obtained in the year 2007 from the Open University of Sri Lanka,
    • A Diploma in Human Resource Management obtained in the year 2005 from the London Business School,
    • A diploma in Counseling Psychology obtained in 2008 from the London Business School,
    • A Diploma in International Relations obtained in 2005 from the B.M.I.C.H. International Diplomatic Training Institute of Sri Lanka .

    At present I am reading for a Doctorate at the open University of Sir Lanaka. The topic of my assignment is A Sociological Study on Constraints to Professionalism in Police Work within the Organizational Framework of Policing in Post Independent Sri Lanka

    I also am an LLB student at the Open University of Sri Lanka.
    Further, I have also followed several overseas training courses in India, Bangkok, Katmandu, and Singapore. Two of the topics were Gender Violence, Women and Children and Street Children.

    These courses were sponsored by the UNICEF and the Department of Police of Sri Lanka.

    I hope to be a practicing lawyer in the near future.

    I am keen and anxious to develop my knowledge in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the University. Therefore please let me know whether I could follow the LLM studies in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at your University.

    An early reply would be greatly appreciated.

    Yours truly,

    Nihal C. Karunaratne,

  • Ratana, Sat Aug 28, 2010 02:31 PM

    I want to study international commerical law for my Master's degree. I would like to know what are the subfields of international commerical law. Will i be required to study every subfields or i just need to choose a subfield. Also, can u please tell me what careers i can pursue when i graduate after studying international commercial law or subfield of international commerical law.
    Thank you,

  • Heinz Wappler, Thu Jul 08, 2010 04:55 PM

    Can you please give me an updated list of Law School that offer a master program/master course in International Law for non-law graduates(Australia,Europe,U.S.A.)
    Thank you very much!
    Best regards

    Heinz Wappler

  • Martin, Wed Feb 10, 2010 06:03 PM

    The University of York now offers an LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice. While as always most applicants / students have law degrees, there is provision for non-lawyers with some interest / background in law. In my experience, as the author points out, while non-law students may need to play catch-up when discussing some doctrinal issues, they often bring other valuable skills and experiences that (more than) compensate.

    See here for more info:


  • Ahmad Shah Durrani, Tue Jan 26, 2010 09:20 AM

    Hi, It is observed that the university is providing and advancing a very precious courses for the students of all the world.But unfortunately we are suffering from such a huge crises that we are unable to get admission in your hon\'ble instituion.So far as we are seeking LLM Amission in your institiution same are not found on scholarship basis and Asian students are suffering from above said matter.We hope that soon a programme will be started by your instituion for LLM Asian student with scholarships. With Regards. Thanks in anticipation. Ahmad Shah Khan Durrani From Pakistan

  • aparna rao, Tue Oct 06, 2009 09:05 AM

    Hi, My name is Aparna. I have just graduated in engineering this july. I have always wanted to study law. and I 'd want to pursue an L.L.M degree in the field of business law. I want to know if this is possible given my non legal academic background. Please let me know asap.

    thank you.

  • cafs, Wed Sep 16, 2009 07:39 PM

    a bussiness student studying banking and finance and would want to do my masters in banking and financial law.. Need advice in how best to achieve this without a degree in law

  • aykacmaz, Thu Sep 10, 2009 09:51 AM

    I also am interested in distance education in L.L.M for the following academic year! However, I have to decide in which sub-field should I be enrolled! I am working for a big infrastructure project in Turkey for two years now with a background of ELT (Eng. Lang. Teaching) my function here is translating and interpreting. I am happy to get some advice regarding which specific field to consider. Thank you!

  • Dilara, Tue Jan 20, 2009 02:38 PM

    Interested in the distance learning

  • BAHoil&gas, Sun Nov 30, 2008 05:15 AM

    Thanks for the information. As others have mentioned, I too, am finishing a MBA and Negotiations degree in the US and not looking to become an attorney. Though, I noticed nothing was said about the CEPMLP program @ Un. Dundee? They offer a number of LLM's within the Energy, Oil, Gas and Mineral sector(s) w/o first having studied law. Do you have a recommendation regarding this specialized program and if so, are you aware of the job prospects after graduating?

  • Lawrence Lowell, Fri Nov 07, 2008 08:06 AM

    Need distance learning LLM in Commecial Law

  • kip, Mon Jul 28, 2008 07:14 PM

    Are European university LL.B programs generally for people just out of high school? Would I be very old (25) for these programs? Thanks! -K, New York City

  • eric.k, Sat Jul 26, 2008 01:04 PM

    Also the Master in European Law at the Europa-Institut of Saarland University / Germany is open for graduates without a legal background (e.g. political sciences, european studies, etc.).


  • Luciana, Tue Jun 10, 2008 03:42 AM

    The Master of Science of Laws program at Thomas Jefferson School of Law is open to non-lawyers like myself with a journalism background. The law school is accredited by the American Bar Association. I am interested because this program is offered online, whereas the other LL.M. programs, and the J.D., at Thomas Jefferson are only residential.

  • PRIYA.M, Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:39 AM

    I am priya from India Iam doing BAL,LLB AND FINISHING BY THIS JUNE 2008.I would like to join for LLM in Public International law with scholarship . I need you guidelines to join the college for masters .
    Thanking you in advance

  • James, Sun Feb 17, 2008 03:58 AM

    Does the LL.M. operate as a Master's for future Ph.D. study as an MBA or JD does not? If the answer is "it depends", than does the Humanitarian LL.M. mentioned above leave the door open to a doctoral degree?

  • nriattorney, Sun Dec 09, 2007 05:01 AM

    Yes you are right; and in some of the programs, you can transfer to JD after LL.M so that if you later decide to join the law profession, you are eligible.

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